Latest reviews by Dodie Mercer

(2019)
"Running the Ragged Edge of the Western World"
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Big Sur has been a dream of mine for years and this year that dream came true.

I flew into California on Friday and stayed in Monterey.

The expo was a short 10 minute Uber ride from my hotel the next day. Packet pick up was a snap and the expo itself was a lot of fun. Normally I'm not a big fan of expos but I enjoyed this one. I bough a race jacket (something I never do) and even stayed for happy hour that was presented by Sufferfest.

The shirts were a long sleeve tech shirt and we were e-mailed a virtual goody bag leading up to the race.

Race morning I took a cab to the shuttle bus area. At the expo you were given shuttle tickets based on where you were staying, My bus was leaving at 4:00am which sounded extremely early for a 6:45 start.
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As the bus wove it's way along the coast I understood why we left so early. By the time we got to the start line it was 6:00! I had just enough time to hit up a porta potty before getting into my corral.

My one and only complaint about the entire race weekend was the porta potty situation. The were along the left side of the back of the corral area. To the right side was the fenced off VIP area. This left little space for lines to form and it was a giant mash of people. To even get to a line you had to jostle through the crowd that was already in line. If they had been lined up along the back I think things would have went smoother.

The race starts off the in the woods and it's pretty down hill. It was hard not to get too carried away.

Once the ocean came into view it was hard to contain my excitement! We passed a lighthouse that looked like it was on an island in the distance and my picture taking started.

At mile 11 I started the two mile up hill climb to Hurricane Point. As I climbed I could hear the Taiko drummers in the distance encouraging me to keep going. When I got to the top the view made it all worth it. I smiled so hard my face hurt.

The next few miles were down hill and I was just finding a groove when I heard the piano music from the Bixby Bridge. I started crying.

I had to force myself to stop to take photos and videos of the bridge and coastline. This is was the exact reason I came to Big Sur and I wanted to take it all in.

As I floated down the hill and across the Bixby Bridge he played "Somewhere Over the Rainbow". The whole thing felt so surreal.

Then came the "rolling hills". I live in Central Pennsylvania where we have plenty of hills. These hills put my hills to shame.

No one warmed me that the final 10k is the toughest stretch!

The aid stations really kept me in the game throughout the whole race. Aside from having water and Gatorade they also had a BYOB (Bring Your Own Bottle) station at the end where you could refill your water bottle. This is the first time I've ever seen that at a race and I think it's a great idea.

At mile 23 I snagged some strawberries and tried to focus on the remaining miles. The ocean views helped distract me a little.

Around mile 25 or so I stopped and had a beer!

I could hear the finish line before I saw it and was thrilled to finally be there. The medals were some sort of ceramic with the iconic Big Sur lettering.

After I collected my medal I went through and grabbed some food from the tables that were set up. The only thing I didn't see was water or Gatorade. Usually someone is handing them out right at the finish but I didn't see anyone nor did I see any coolers. Luckily, I still had some left in my water bottle.

I found the Sufferfest tent and had my celebratory post race beer then I found the shuttles to head back to Monterey. Once I got back into town I took an Uber back to my hotel.

Overall I can't say enough great things about this race. The logistics of flying to California to run a point to point race scared me a little but the whole thing went smoothly. The views are everything you can imagine and then some.

Every runner should have Big Sur on their bucket list!

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(2019)
"Not Your Typical D.C. Race!"
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This was my third time running a race in D.C. but my first RnR D.C. half. Previously I've run MCM and Cherry Blossom.

RnR D.C. was a lot different from the start. The expo was held at the Armory and because I hit some bad weather driving into town I wound up getting there two hours before it closed. There were three lines out the door to get in which was a first for me. I waited out in the snow for 40 minutes before making it inside. The hold up was that they were checking backs and wanding everyone with metal detectors before allowing us to enter.

Once I got inside the expo the packet pick up process went smooth since I already knew my bib number. I took a quick trip around the expo to check out the vendors then headed out.

Typically I don't like race shirts but this one really grew on me. It's a short sleeve tech shirt with an eagle and a record. It struck me as funny so I kept it.

Getting to the start line was a snap because I caught an Uber down. The corrals were very well managed with large, clear entry points.

The race itself took us through more of downtown D.C. rather than around the monuments like MCM and Cherry Blossom do. I enjoyed the change in scenery.

Mile 6 started the Blue Mile which is dedicated to service men and women that have lost their lives. This is always such a somber mile for reflection.

This also happened to be the biggest hill on the course. The Blue Mile volunteers really helped me get to the top.

The remainder of the course was gently rolling hills until the end.

There were plenty of water stops, aid stations and bands along the course.

I even stopped for some Guinness at mile 9 that a local group was handing out!

The race finished right outside of RFK Stadium where bands were playing.

RnR races throw hands down the best after parties. I snagged water, Gatorade, chips, fruit snacks, a banana, chocolate milk and some pizza.

Trying to get out of the race was a different story though. My hotel was 2 miles away so I figured I'd just catch an Uber. It took over and hour and a half to get one. There aren't any restaurants or coffee shops down by the stadium so I walked a few blocks with some other runners to a 7/11 to grab coffee and wait. I've never had this much trouble trying to get back from a race and it put a damper on the amazing experience I had.

If you plan to run this race in the future plan ahead for better arrangements to get out.

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(2019)
"My New Favorite Half!"
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Hands down this is the best half marathon I've ever ran!

I hit the expo up on Saturday and it was easy to get to with ample parking. There were plenty of vendors on hand including one of my favorites, Koala Clip!

I stayed right on the boardwalk so on race morning I rolled out of bed and was to the start line in less than 15 minutes. Again parking was ample for those staying in the hotel and those driving in for the race.

The race it's is almost 100% flat. We were in a wooded area for a bit then ran through a military base which was pretty cool. The finish was right on the boardwalk in front of the Neptune stature.

Aid stations were able on the course with plenty of Gaterade and water. There were also plenty of beer stations manned by race supporters!

At the finish we were given a ton of cool swag including a bag, hat and fleece blanket. The food was ample as well.

Post race there was a party right on the beach with live bands, beef stew and four drink tickets for Yuenling!!! It was the most fun I've ever had at an after party and I stayed for five hours!

I would hands down recommend this race to anyone that loves running 13.1 miles and having a good time. I'll definitely be back!

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(2018)
"Tough 10k"
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I took part in the Grand Slam weekend and third up was the 10k on Saturday.

We hit the expo Friday afternoon which is in the Arts Quest building across from the historic Steel Stacks. It was easy to navigate with a good mix of vendors. Shout out to Aftershokz!

Earlier in the week we received a virtual goody bag with lots of discounts from the race sponsors. Since I was running the Grand Slam I got a long sleeve and half zip. Both were very nice quality.

Parking was the same as the it was for the expo so that made things easy. The only catch was that some lots would be closed until late morning due to the 10k. Since I was running that as well it was no big deal.

It was a little chilly but there were several buildings right at the start to take cover in and as an added bonus they had bathrooms too!

Since the 5k started late that meant we had even less time to recover for the 10k.

We started a little further down than the 5k but the beginning of the course was very similar. After we went across the bridge though we started to climb, and climb. I swear miles 2-4 were nothing but uphill after uphill with no recovery.

We finally hit a steep downhill that didn't last near long enough before winding our way back to the Steel Stacks to the same finish line.

Again there were a few water stops along the course.

Same medal, this time a 10k version.

We had the same banana, granola bars and water at the finish line.

This is a tough 10k. I'd love to do it again for the challenge.

If you're running a combination of races make sure you leave something for the 10k because it will kick your butt!

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(2018)
"Icing on the Cake of a Great Weekend"
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I took part in the Grand Slam weekend and lastly we ran the half marathon on Sunday.

We hit the expo Friday afternoon which is in the Arts Quest building across from the historic Steel Stacks. It was easy to navigate with a good mix of vendors. Shout out to Aftershokz!

Earlier in the week we received a virtual goody bag with lots of discounts from the race sponsors. Since I was running the Grand Slam I got a long sleeve and half zip. Both were very nice quality.

Parking was the same as it had been all weekend. I got there half an hour before the race and was able to park and walk to the start in 5 minutes.

It was a lot colder so I was even more thankful for the heated buildings with bathrooms.

I believe the start was the same as it was for the 10k. On Friday a local runner and I decided to run the race together so I found her in our corral and we were off.

We wove around the same streets we had for the races the day before. Aubrey had advised me that there were four "challenges" to the course. Each challenge was comprised of a set of hills.

The first challenge came at mile three and was easy enough. It was the same bridge we'd crossed in the 5k and 10k followed by an uphill with a little downhill recovery.

The next challenge came at mile six. To the best of my memory it was a few steeper hills back to back.

For me the third challenge was the most difficult it was a long gradual hill that never seemed to end. This was from miles 7-8. My Oiselle Volee ladies were waiting at the top though and that lifted my spirits.

The last of the challenges came in mile 10. I knew once that hill was over I'd be home free. A little down hill then the same route back as the 5k and 10k.

There's something really cool about crossing the same finish line three times over the course of three days.

Since I did the Grand Slam I was given a special larger finisher medal.

Post race they had bagels, granola bars, bananas and water.

The course had ample water stops and I think a few even had gels.

Overall I'd highly recommend this half marathon. It's a great course full of challenges. I'd also recommend combining it with some of the other races of the weekend. Runner's World really knows how to put on an event.

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